Review: The Insomniacs – At Least I’m Not With You

Posted on: Tuesday, Jul 7, 2009


“At Least I’m Not With You”

(Delta Groove Music: DGPCD130)

Following on from their “Left Coast Blues” debut release, the Portland, Oregon-based blues and swing band, The Insomniacs, have released a great follow-up in the shape of “At Least I’m Not With You”. The band are led by the supremely talented Vyasa Dodson (guitar and vocals), who has written all bar five of the 13 cuts here; Alex Shakeri (keyboards), Dean Mueller (bass) and Dave Melyan (drums).

The band primarily deal in West Coast flavoured blues, jump and swing, together with some more rootsy songs – laid down in the studio in just two days after being fine-tuned on the road for two years, and they are joined by special guests in the shape of Al Blake, Mitch Kashmar, Joel Patterson and Jeff Turmes.

Vyasa Dodson’s guitar is a treat throughout the whole album – he was initially influenced by rock/blues legends such as Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton, but then studied jump and swing masters such as Junior Watson – who contributes sleeve notes here, Charlie Christian and Charlie Baty, and absorbed their styles into his own playing.

Proceedings kick-off with a great shuffle, “Lonesome” – and in just over three minutes shows what The Insomniacs are all about – stinging guitar solo, marvellous Hammond B-3 from Alex Shakeri, with Al Blake soloing on harmonica. The following “Broke And Lonely” has a more downhome feel, with rolling piano and Joel Patterson’s pedal steel guitar giving the song an almost country edge.

“Directly From My Heart To You” is the first of four songs to feature saxophone from the in-demand Jeff Turmes – both tenor and baritone on this track – with more eloquent guitar work from Dodson. The title cut, “At Least I’m Not With You” is pure 50s r&b, swinging gently, and again driven by Turmes saxophone work.

The instrumental swing tune “Root Beer Float” again shows what a fine player Alex Shakeri is, with his piano leading into another guitar showcase from Dodson, demonstrating is classic influences in a rip-roaring solo! The band get lowdown on Junior Wells immortal “Hoodoo Man Blues”, with fellow Delta Groove artiste, Mitch Kashmar, blowing up a storm on harmonica.

Elsewhere the band lay down more 50s flavourings on “Baby Don’t You Do It”, dip into surf mode, not surprisingly, on “Angry Surfer”, and laid down a fine slow blues on “Description Blues” – possibly Dodson’s best vocal of the album, and stinging guitar, with Alex Shakeri’s jazzy Hammond B-3 playing making this a standout. “Insomniacs Boogie” brings proceedings to an end in raucous fashion, another storming, swinging instrumental – demonstrating what a fine and tight band these guys are!

Although the two main soloists catch the ear throughout, the rhythm section of Dave Melyan and Dean Mueller lay down a solid groove throughout in the ‘engine room’ – the band must be treat to see live – a highly recommended release.


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